Joint Arab List Fails to Win Support for Knesset Session on Housing in Arab Towns

After meeting with MKs, attorney general pledges to set up Justice Ministry task force to examine housing issue following home demolitions in Kafr Kana, Dahamesh.

Gil Eliahu

A first attempt at cooperation among the Knesset’s opposition factions failed Monday when the Joint Arab List was unable to get the necessary 25 MKs to sign a petition for a special session to discuss the housing shortage in Arab towns and last week’s home demolitions in two such towns.

All five Meretz MKs joined the Joint Arab List’s 13 MKs in signing the document. But Zionist Union faction chief Eitan Cabel refused to add his party to the petition and Yesh Atid MKs also refused to sign, leaving the motion short of seven signatures.

The Joint Arab List sought to convene the special session in response to last week’s demolition of homes in Kafr Kana in the north and Dahamesh in central Israel. Arab towns also decided to call a strike on April 28 to draw attention to their housing problems.

MK Aida Touma-Suliman (JAL) said Zionist Union’s refusal to sign the petition “proved that at the moment of truth, it wasn’t able to make courageous decisions and stand up against the policy of oppression and discrimination, and that it isn’t part of a fighting opposition against racist policies.”

Zionist Union did not immediately respond.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon accused the Joint Arab List of preferring “nationalism and isolation to partnership,” after it rejected a request by Meretz before the election for the two parties to sign a surplus vote agreement, which could have given the more popular of the two parties an extra seat by enabling them to pool some of their votes. A Joint Arab List MK responded that Meretz had “never made a serious request.”

Also Monday, five Joint Arab List members met with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to discuss the housing demolitions, telling him it was impossible to reduce the scope of illegal building in Arab communities if steps weren’t taken to enable legal building on the necessary scale, primarily by approving the requisite master plans.

Joint Arab List MKs Ahmad Tibi, Osama Saadia, Haneen Zoabi, Talab Abu Arar and Yousef Jabareen said such plans could permanently eliminate more than 90 percent of all illegal construction. They also asked Weinstein to freeze all existing demolition orders in Arab communities.

According to the MKs, Weinstein pledged to study the matter and discuss it with the relevant government agencies, and said he would set up a Justice Ministry task force to examine their claims. The MKs acceded to his request to meet with the task force to discuss the issue.